More milonga moves (review from Milonga class, March-April 2010)

We covered a HUGE amount of material in the past six weeks--good work, folks! Here is a review of the steps and technique we learned.

This first part on ocho cortado is recopied from my blog earlier. I just want to make it easier to find for those of you who are only taking my milonga class.

Ocho cortado

There are many ways to do ocho cortado, but there are some fundamental elements that must exist for the ocho cortado (or ocho milonguero) to happen:

  1. Follower is led in a back-front rebound step (R foot back, L forward). This is ONE movement, like a basketball hitting the ground and returning. Does the ball stop for a moment at the ground? No! It flexes and returns (just like the follower's body).
  2. Follower is led to step through to the leader's outside track (leader's right) with the right foot.
  3. Follower is led in a side-side rebound step (left-right), ending in a front cross/close. This should have some circular motion around the leader to make the move easier for the follower and conserve space.

Notice that the ocho cortado is based on the follower's footwork! As the leader, I could hop up and down, as long as the follower gets these messages: rebound, step through, rebound, close. However, most of us prefer a bit more structure, so here are the leader's steps for the linear ocho cortado:

  1. Leader does a forward back rebound (left, right).
  2. Leader steps backwards with the left, while leading the follower through to leader's right side.
  3. Leader does a tiny rebound side-side, but most of the movement is circular, so that the follower's rebound goes around the leader, not away, out into space.
  4. Leader completes move by stepping in place (or near there, depending on the variation) with the right foot, ready to begin another pattern in parallel system (or doesn't switch and is in crossed system).

Most of the arguing about how to do the ocho cortado here in Portland centers around whether the ocho cortado should be circular or linear. THERE IS NO CORRECT VERSION; linear vs circular is a decision made on the dance floor, depending on the space available.


Ocho cortado variations

The Charleston

This is a linear variation that does not pivot the follower. The leader remains facing line-of-dance (LOD) or original direction; follower remains facing leader UNLESS you are using this move to change facings in the room.

  • The leader leads the first half of normal ocho cortado, making sure to make it linear so that the line of movement is established.
  • On the second half of the ocho cortado, the leader moves parallel to the follower, so that both dancers rebound along the line of movement: leader back, forward and follower forward, back.
  • Do not close into the cross, but exit walking (of course, you can end any way you want, but this is easiest).
  • Followers: make sure your rebounds travel up your body so that the leader knows when to rebound you. Keep your ankles, knees, hips and spine stretchy but relaxed. If you "help" by stopping the movement, you make it harder to lead and rougher on your body.

Rudolf Valentino

This version is also a linear version (guess what type of ocho cortado I like!). Here, the follower is pivoted and then BOTH dancers move through the middle of the step, achieving that "Rudolf Valentino" cheek-to-cheek alignment just for a moment.

  • The leader leads the first half of normal ocho cortado, making sure it is linear to that the line of movement is established.
  • As the follower does the second rebound, the leader also does a rebound in the same direction, and overturns the follower so that the follower must step forward through the space between the dancers after the rebound.
  • This timing on when to pivot the follower (and self) is subtle: turn too soon, and the follower will try to turn around you. Turn too late, and the follower cannot comply with your request to travel facing forwards in a front cross. Use your chest and the rebound, working together, to "catch" the follower's rebound and send it in a new direction.
  • Don't wrestle your partner, but you can use your embrace to prevent the follower from "helping" by doing a regular ocho cortado on auto-follow.
  • When the follower finished the forward step, you can pivot her/him again, returning to the original partner orientation in order to exit walking or whatever you want to do.

Playing with repetition as a variation

For each of these variations above, you can take one rebound and repeat it several times before completing the pattern, to vary the step. Usually, it's easiest to repeat the second rebound (repeating the first is not fun, IMHO as a follower).

This changes the timing from the traditional quick quick slow, quick quick slow, to: quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, quick, quick . . . slow. This is useful if you either forgot to start your milonga on the strong beat, or got off-track somewhere. Just keep rebounding until you can start again on a strong beat!

For example, you can take the second rebound of the Charleston version, and just keep rebounding (make the follower rebound forward on left, back on right; then back on left, forward on right, making a rocking motion).

I tend to use this concept more with the Rudolf Valentino version. Having turned my follower to face LOD with me, I'll rebound both of us forward and back and forward and back, and then exit. The exit can be finishing in tango close, or UNwinding to finish with a Charleston and then walking out.

The El Tano

This is what I call the first variation I learned of ocho cortado, back in 2000.  I learned it by dancing with El Tano, yet another great dancer who has passed away recently.

When watching the move, it looked like he led the first half of an ocho cortado, and then waved his belly back and forth for a while, and then closed the step. However, following him, he made sure that I closed my ocho cortado, REBOUNDED at the cross (in place basically), and then opened up again to do more rebounds.

A favorite combination for him was to make me cross behind, then open again, then in front, then open again, then in back, then in open, and finally, close in tango cross (whew! that's six rebounds in a row!). If you do not have the beer belly to make this easy, you need to use some body English to make sure your follower feels the difference between in front and in back of her right leg.

Inside out ocho cortado

I saw a very fun version of ocho cortado in Buenos Aires in February. Dancers (guys) were hanging out of their chairs, watching intently. Luckily, the couple doing this move were my main teachers, so I could beg for instruction and learn it quickly.

  • The rebound for this version is NOT a traditional rebound. Instead, it is triangular (I know, this is breaking a rule, but it's fun!). When the follower is sent backwards on the right to begin the first rebound, the leader twists the torso to the right, lightly suspends and uses "la marca" to make the follower pivot; and then leads the second half of the rebound so that the follower moves left diagonal with the left foot. This makes a V-shaped move, to the back right diagonal of the leader, rather than just in place.
  • For the step after the rebound, this opening into a stronger V in the embrace, should make the follower able to step sideways BEHIND herself along the line of movement, rather than forward through.
  • Leaders: don't make the follower guess! Be clear here! Have intention! If not, your follower may "help" you by doing a standard ocho cortado, thinking, "Oh, s/he led that really badly!"
  • The leader, BTW, is also doing a triangular rebound and a step behind, parallel to the follower's path.
  • Lead the second rebound so that the follower gets a side, back rebound (as in the Rudolf Valentino when you unwind back into the Charleston).
  • The last step is not a tango close, but a walking exit. You can end with going to the cross, but it doesn't feel as smooth for the follower.
  • Triple- (or double-) back variation on the exit: Do two or three of the side, cross behind steps before exiting, to make the move fit the music as you wish. The timing is then: quick, quick, slow, slow, slow, slow . . . quick, quick, slow.
  • Exit variation: Do only the first rebound and the step behind. Then, suspend the follower with "la marca" turn to face LOD, and allow the follower's hips to unwind. Pause for an adorno, or simple exit to the cross.

Other stuff

 My goodness!  I don't think I've ever covered this much material in such a short time! Here's the non-ocho cortado material we did this session.

Omar's step

This is my favorite Omar Vega move that I learned in his milonga classes in July, August and September of 2000 in Buenos Aires. As many of you know, Omar was both a brilliant dancer, and a bit of a bad boy. This move has all his attitude and finesse in it. I love the grooviness of it, especially if you throw it in between a few smooth, milonga lisa steps so that it attracts attention and then disappears ("Hey, what was that?").

  • Start: Feet together, having just put the follower on the right foot and the leader on the left foot.
  • Leader moves a half-step backwards with the right, WHILE rotating the chest to the left AND lifting the follower slightly up, so that the follower takes a half step forward, moving into the center.
  • Leader moves a full (but not too big!) step backwards WITH THE RIGHT, while relaxing the chest to neutral and having released the follower's suspension. That's right! This is a step where you take TWO steps in a row with the same foot, sorta.
  • Invisible rebound: The reason you can take two steps with the same foot, is that there is an invisible rebound in the middle. Basically, this is a rebound that you feel in your foot, straight into the ground, and in your body, up and away from the foot; you transfer weight WITHOUT MOVING onto your other foot. Then, the original foot is available to move again.
  • Exit to the left with the left, and continue as you like.
  • The follower has a half step forward with the left, suspended so that there is a small step. Rebound (see above) and step forward again with the left, exiting to the right with the right into whatever is led.
  • Note: We learned Omar's step out of the cuadrado, but obviously you don't have to do that first.


Robert doesn't like the cuadrado, so I taught it a day that he wasn't co-teaching :-)  I agree that it should be used sparingly, but it's a good way to bail out of walking to the cross, or to get nice side-together steps going.

  • Leader: Open to the side with the left; walking (inside track) with the right; back into center track with the left; side open with the right; and close in place, putting your weight on your left. I think of this as: "side, maybe no, step together" but you can call it whatever you like.
  • Follower: Open to side with the right; walk back on the left; back on the right; side open with the left; together with the right, switching weight IF you are led to do that!

The pendulum (QQQQ)

Again, I learned this move from Omar Vega, who didn't call it anything ("Today's new step looks like this:" is not a good name).

Note: It is easiest to lead this after a side step. I suggest doing the entire move with the leader facing out of the space, moving sideways line-of-dance.

  • Side-step line-of-dance; leader's left, follower's right. Timing: slow.
  • Leader steps forward through, diagonal right LOD, with right foot.
  • Leader steps together with left.
  • Leader steps back with right.
  • Leader steps together with left.
  • Timing after side step: quick, quick, quick, quick.
  • Follower: side step LOD with right; back on left; together on right; forward on left; together on right; exit with left.
  • How do you get the follower to do four quick steps in a row, with two of them in place? Good question! Think of this as a pendulum-shaped move. When I lead it, I send my feet further than my chest on step one, and on step three, I scoop the follower almost under and towards me, so that the follower's feet do the same thing, swinging towards me like a pendulum. The first step has the energy emphasis. If I were singing this move, this is how I would sing it: YUMP bum bum bum.

Basic framework: grapevine

All of the moves we did this session work nicely connected together with a basic framework of a form of grapevine:

  • Leader: side with left, forward through with right, side with left, back with right.
  • Follower: side with right, back with left, side with right, forward with left.
  • All slow steps.
  • Note: This is facing (for the leader) towards the outside edge of the dance floor; the follower is facing the center of the floor. This protects the follower from other dancers, allows the leader more space to place/more ability to see available space, etc.
  • The framework has a slight diagonal to it, with the leader moving forward diagonal LOD when stepping through with the right; and either straight back towards the center of the room OR turning a bit more and stepping back diagonal LOD with the back right step.
  • Variation #1 (Step close): After the leader's front diagonal step with the right, step TOGETHER instead of to the side. This makes the follower's step also step in place. To help make sure the lead is clear, you can tilt SLIGHTLY to ensure that the follower's step cannot travel sideways.
  • Variation #2 (Triple-steps to the side): For one or both of the side steps, make that step a "step-together-step" (quick, quick, slow). This is easier on the side step after the follower's back step, but it works for both. As a follower, I prefer ONE set of quick, quick, slow side steps per pattern, not two. As a leader, I kinda like two!